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Millennials and their Drinks…it’s Complicated

Millennials are likely one of the most studied generations to date. As a group we are very diverse. For every study on Millennials that show us to be the scorn of our culture there is another that shows us to be entrepreneurial, conscious capitalists. All of this could really make your head spin!

As a co-founder of SightX, a market research software company, it just so happens that I have at my disposal some really innovative ways to dig into any such topic and uncover the real truths about this generation. We have been helping our customers uncover insights about consumers and their brands, and more often than not the topic of understanding Millennials and their preferences is on the top of the list. One big part of the reason is that we are set to account for 30% of all retail sales by 2020 and we are incredibly mobile, tech savvy, and educated.

Oh to be a Millennial, the focus of so many brands and sales initiatives!

While we were sitting around one evening, as Millennials ourselves, we were wondering how in the world do we deal with this pressure? Well, on the evening in question it was with a nice, full-bodied red wine from California at a bar around the corner from our office. Later that week, I was at home pondering the same, and I thought to myself, I’d like a bourbon Manhattan, my favorite drink for when I want to feel sophisticated and introspective.

So we figured, why not try to find out how all Millennials imbibe? What influences those adventurous, impatient, results-oriented, progressive, confident Millennial’s drink preferences?

Well as it turns out, our biggest influences come from…each other. We dug deeper and found that even though we all have our ‘favorite’ drink, when we do switch, 35% of us switch because of the people we’re with make a recommendation. While it may not be as easy for an alcohol brand to create an on-line community to foster conversations and encourage reviews from customers, these influences are something for those brands to think about.

But I also realized that when I’m sitting at home with my bourbon, my drink preference can be different than when I’m out on the town with friends or eating at that cool new restaurant in NYC that took 30 days to get a reservation. So does occasion really influence our preferences? Yes, but only partially, it’s really an incomplete question without the full context. Our findings showed that there are other factors that hold sway. More research to conduct!

Even so, 60% of us claim that the occasion does influence our drink choices. Even the 40% who said that the specific occasion doesn’t influence them, whenever the time came when they did actually make a conscious drink change decision, the primary driver was, you guessed it, the company we keep.

Of the preferred drinks that we asked about, beer and wine are still the perennial favorites. Interestingly enough, vodka came in as a not too distant third. Is this more Russian subversion of our American culture? Another unanswered question for the FBI perhaps? I missed the report from the House Intelligence Committee, so maybe this was covered, not sure.

Another trend that we thought was really interesting to point out from our research is that Millennials seem to be a bunch of homebodies. Of the top beverage choices, almost 40% were most recently consumed at home or at a friend’s house. Is this a new challenge for brands? Yes, you can reach almost anyone in this mobile first culture we live in, but how do you really engage? If anything, our findings reveal that we Millennials are more diverse than the label would lead some to believe.

These were my reflections of our study. To read the full report or explore another topic please contact me at,

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